Working parents seek options for childcare as pandemic impacted school year approaches
TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Melissa Rosso is a doctor in Manhattan and one of many working parents impacted by COVID-19's effects on in-person schooling.
She said conventional wisdom about being a working parent has been difficult to apply when it comes to being involved in her two school-aged children’s learning environment.
“The message is ‘You just keep juggling, you do the best you can’ but I can’t work and parent and teach my kids and I don’t have a flexible job where I can work from home.”
She believed that little discussion around the topic of what working parents can do if classrooms need to close is often overlooked.
“What about the people who work day jobs and are expected to be at their job educate their children check in with the school? It’s more than people are able to do.”
Frustrated by lack of information about childcare options during remote learning as her children aged out of daycare but are too young to stay home alone, she composed a letter to local publications, county leadership and ultimately, parent-oriented groups on Facebook to begin a conversation she felt many people shared similar concerns.
“There’s not an easy solution and I think people have been hesitant to talk about it publicly because it’s not an ‘this is an issue, here’s the fix it’s ‘this is an issue, ugh there’s no there’s no good fix’ there’s no easy fix and so no one really recognized it and when no one recognizes it you feel that you are the only one in this situation.”
Rosso said working parents are looking for one source of comfort if school buildings need to close again.
"If in-person school shuts down, I have a safe and reliable place for my kids to continue their education and be during the day."
She said the results have been transformative, with some parents offering to watch other students in their homes, while some groups are looking to open unused spaces.
"We have such a smart, kind, creative innovative community that I am really hopeful and confident we're going to get this figured out."
Reva Wywadis is the Executive Director of Childcare Aware of Easter Kansas, which offers services to match families with childcare options.
She said it’s key that choices need to be discussed.
"If nothing else I hope we've all heard the importance of being flexible and knowing we can have a plan and that may change."
Organizations like the Southwest YMCA also have made accommodations for working families.
They've launched an "extended camp", an extension of their summer camp.
It gives kindergartners through 6th grade students space and supervision to work on school assignments while parents are at their jobs.
"We felt that it was so hard to second guess what the schools were going to do that we just made the space available to them so any child from any school district can check in here," President and CEO of Topeka YMCA John Mugler said.
Extended camp operates on a “pay by the day” system, so families only pay for the days needed, like days when a child attends school remotely on a hybrid school schedule, for example.
Students can bring their devices and have access to the YMCA’s wifi to work on assignments, get a breakfast and snack, and have the opportunity for swimming lessons and other activities.
Mugler said extended camp can provide kids a sense of normalcy even if they’re not in a regular classroom.
"From the kids side of it is there's a lot of scary stuff going on right now and if we can be a break from that reality for them, let them have some fun let them learn in a warm environment with some friends and maybe this crisis won't be as tough on them."
Extended camp is open now from 7 am to 5:30 pm.
Enrollment in the camp is $27.00 per day for YMCA members and $30.00 per day for non-YMCA members.
Mugler said scholarships are available.
More information on extended camp can be found here.
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